On Thursday, the head of France’s main Muslim organization struck a “unilateral” move by three Islamic groups for failing to sign up to an anti-extremism charter that President Emmanuel Macron is fighting.
Macron wants French Muslim groups to sign up to the charter as he tries to secure France’s secular system in the wake of a series of attacks accused of Islamist radicals in 2020.
However, the Committee for the Coordination of Turkish Muslims in France (CCMTF) and the Milli Gorus Islamic Confederation (CMIG) – which both cater to citizens of Turkish origin – as well as the Throne and Practice Movement, announced late Wednesday that they would not be signing the charter.
“Through these repeated actions, the groups … all risk being held accountable for this divisive situation,” said Mohamed Moussaoui, president of the French Council of Muslim Faith (CFCM), the umbrella group for France’s Muslim groups.
This refusal “is unlikely to provide assurance … about the representative bodies of the Muslim religions,” he added.
A source close to the matter, who asked not to be named, said the three groups that refused to sign the charter were particularly concerned about the definition of foreign interference in religion and the definition of political Islam.
The line comes at a time of serious diplomatic tensions between France and Turkey, whose president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly stunned Macron’s attempts to overthrow radical Islam in the country.
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Milli Gorus, a pan-European movement for the Turkish diaspora, is seen as inspired by the ideas of the late Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan, considered the father of political Islam in Turkey and Erdogan’s mentor.
“We believe that certain passages and formulations in the text submitted are likely to weaken the bonds of trust between Muslims in France and the nation,” the three groups said in a statement.
“In addition, some statements affect the honor of Muslims, with an accusing and marginalizing tone.”
Five of the nine groups that make up the CFCM, a body set up almost 20 years ago to enable dialogue between the government and the Muslim community, have signed up to the charter after weeks of sometimes heated debate.
But the CFCM’s failure to show a completely united front so far risks depriving the initiative for consensus within the Muslim community that it is intended to highlight.
However, a government source insisted that the groups’ refusal would not weaken the process, adding that “the masks will be loosened”.
“An important clarification is being made,” the source said.
The charter rejects “instrumentalization” of Islam for political purposes and affirms equality between men and women, while condemning practices such as female circumcision, forced marriage or “virginity” for brides.
Macron cracked down on the promotion of “political Islam” in France in November last year after a teacher was beheaded outside his school.
He had shown the students drawn by the Prophet Muhammad as part of a free speech.
The attack prompted action against extremist mosques and Islamist groups, along with a powerful defense of French secularism.